Tinnitus: What it is and how it’s managed

Tinnitus typically presents as a ringing, buzzing, humming or clicking sound, and can range from bothersome to severe. It can be triggered by any one of many causes, from an ear infection to exposure to loud noise. 

Unsurprisingly, the condition, which impacts more than one in seven adults across Europe, can significantly affect people’s mental wellbeing and quality of life. It is especially debilitating for the more than 4.4 million who experience a severe form of the condition.

Data shows that the prevalence of tinnitus appears to increase significantly with age and progressive hearing loss; as people live longer, the total population suffering from tinnitus will grow.

Is there a cure for tinnitus?

With no cure for tinnitus, management of symptoms aims to alleviate the considerable distress it can cause. This typically involves enhancing the perception of external sounds – for some people the use of “white noise” to mask the ringing, buzzing, or humming will suffice. For those with chronic tinnitus that is distressing and debilitating, the use of hearing aids can help distract from the perception of tinnitus, reducing its prominence and making it less bothersome.

In recent years, hearing aid manufacturers are leveraging advanced diagnostics and customisation options to develop tailored solutions for tinnitus management, meaning the devices can cater to the unique needs and preferences of each individual.

A healthy lifestyle is typically encouraged for those with tinnitus, with stress avoidance and psychological support often of value. There is evidence for the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as part of treatment, which helps people to reduce their emotional connection to the sound and thus reduce its impact on quality of life.

Emerging trends and outlook for tinnitus

Researchers are keen to understand the basis for tinnitus; there is growing evidence to suggest that some people with tinnitus have what’s known as “hidden” hearing loss, or damage to the auditory nerve that is not picked up by standard tests. A recent study, published in Nature, found evidence of cochlear neural degeneration in normal-hearing people with tinnitus, which may inform treatment strategies going forward.

Enhanced understanding of the basis of the condition will hopefully open the door to developing effective strategies for managing the symptoms of this often-debilitating disease.

Advances in hearing aid technology will also continue to improve symptom management and ensure people continue to live active, healthy lives, even with tinnitus. 

Skip to content